Harman's early Friday finish made him ideal Exchange Trading vehicle
Sticking with World's Top-50 is a strong major trend
Having been matched for a few pounds at a high as 460.0459/1 when the Open Championship market first opened, the world number 26, Brian Harman, began the week trading at around 170.0169/1.
He ended the opening round just one off the lead in a tie for fourth behind Tommy Fleetwood, Emiliano Grillo and the South African amateur, Christo Lamprecht, and he was trading at 26.025/1.
Harman kicked off his second round at 8:47 on Friday and after a great up-and-down to settle the nerves on the opening hole, he set about seizing control of the 151st edition of the world's oldest and most prestigious event.
The 36-year-old birdied the next four holes, parred holes 6 to 17, and signed the round of with an eagle three at the par five 18th. It was a ridiculously good knock in tricky conditions, and it saw him leading by four and trading at around 5/23.50.
Friday afternoon came and went with nobody making any inroads into the Georgian's lead and at the end of the day, his lead had increased to five and he was trading at 2.89/5.
The world number two, Rory McIlroy, made an early move on Saturday and he was matched at a low of 5.59/2 and my 230.0229/1 Find Me a 100 Winner fancy, Nicolai Hojgaard, was matched at a low of 25.024/1 on the Betfair Exchange when he birdied four of his first seven holes to get to within five, but both faltered after that.
Playing alongside Harman in the final group on Saturday, Tommy Fleetwood briefly went favourite when he hit a low of 4.03/1 when getting to within two of the leader after he'd birdied the second and the leader had played the first four holes in two-over-par.
With the world number three, Jon Rahm, who was matched at a low of 5.59/2, sat in the clubhouse and alongside Tommy on -6 after a sensational Saturday 63, Harman drifted to 5.04/1 as it looked like he might be feeling the heat, but he responded brilliantly.
The bogey at four was to be Harman' last dropped shot of the day on Saturday and after bouncing back with a birdie at five, he played the last ten holes in three-under to post a two-under-par 69 that saw him head into Sunday's fourth and final round trading at 1.654/6 and leading by five.
There was another little wobble early in round four and after he'd bogeyed the second and fifth holes, he briefly went odds-against but yet again he gathered himself and bounced back with birdies at both six and seven.
A string of pars followed before he missed a short par putt on the par three 13th but he sealed the deal at the very next hole when he drained a 40 footer for birdie at 14.
Harman then birdied the 15th for good measure before parring the last three holes for a very impressive six-stroke victory.
Stick to the World's Top-50
Harman hadn't won in six years but that was one of the few trend boxes he didn't tick.
He's just the fifth Open winner this century not to have won on either the DP World Tour or the PGA Tour in the previous 12 months but that was one of the few negatives.
Harman arrived at Hoylake in form having finished second at the Travelers Championship, ninth at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and most importantly, 12th in the Scottish Open the week before.
He'd also finished tied for sixth at St Andrews last year so we knew he could play links golf and at 36, he was just the right age to lift the Claret Jug.
Harman is the 22nd first time major winner in the last 33 majors and he's the fifth Open winner in seven years to win his first major at the Open.
Best known for his painful pre-shot routine, his sharp short game and his brilliant putting, from a stats perspective he had to be on anyone's shortlist and given nine of the previous 12 Open winners at Hoylake had been inside the top-five all week and that three of the previous five Open winners had been inside the top-five places all week, he also won the event in the fashion expected.
But the thing that really struck me, yet again, was just how strong the leaderboard was in terms of world rankings.
Following Harman's impressive victory, 46 of the last 47 majors have now been won by someone in the world's top 50 and the six players behind Harman on the final leaderboard were also inside the world's top-50.
The first three major winners in 2023 - Jon Rahm (US Masters), Brooks Koepka (US PGA Championship) and Wyndham Clark (US Open) - had all won in the weeks before they won their majors and the six players behind Harman on the final leaderboard had all won on the PGA Tour in the last 10 months. And some of them went off at humongous prices!
Here is the top-seven with their official world ranking at the start of the week, their latest win, their current form figures, and their approximate starting price on the exchange...
- Brian Harman, 26, 2017 Wells Fargo Championship, MC-43-2-9-12, 170.0169/1
- Tom Kim, 24, 2022 Shriners Hospitals Open, MC-8-MC-38-6, 80.079/1
- Sepp Straka, 28, 2023 John Deere Classic, 16-MC-38-64-1, 300.0299/1
- Jason Day, 27, 2023 Byron Nelson, 1-MC-MC-MC-45, 120.0119/1
- Jon Rahm, 3, 2023 US Masters, 2-50-16-10-MC, 15.014/1
- Emiliano Grillo, 41, 2023 Charles Schwab, 1-48-MC-15-MC, 500.0499/1
- Rory McIlroy, 2, 2023 Scottish Open, 7-9-2-7-1, 9.617/2
As you can see, backing players inside the world's top-50 with a win already in the bag, is a great way to go at majors and something to remember when we head to Augusta in April.
The top-50 stat is so strong that it really is worth forgetting about anyone that isn't inside the top-50.
In the House makes for Safe Trading
It was a funny major for me personally. I made the 9/25.30 offered up by the Sportsbook about the winner being inside the top-five all week my 'bet of the week' so that was a big plus but I feel like Harman was someone I definitely should have sided with after the opening round.
His record in contention and his poor wins to runs ratio put me off the winner before the off but he did make for a fabulous trading vehicle, and especially so when he wasn't even playing...
Finishing his second round so early on Friday and teeing off so late in round three on Saturday, offered up an opportunity to trade him on the Exchange without too much stress.
He was available to back at 3.55/2 after his second round and having drifted out to 3.814/5 when Jordan Spieth started his second round well on Friday afternoon, he was backed back in to 2.89/5 before round three.
His price fluctuated greatly while the second round was still in progress on Friday afternoon and again when the play started on Saturday, as the challengers made their moves, both forwards and backwards.
Backing Harman when he drifted, as someone made a birdie, then laying him back again when they dropped a shot, and repeatedly following that process, soon reduced my potential losses on my pre-event and in-play picks and it's something to look out for going forward.
It's easy to get stuck with a position you don't want if someone playing drops shots or picks them up and their price shifts dramatically but when they're in the clubhouse and not going anywhere, their price fluctuates gently enough to trade them back and fore without too much stress.
For an introduction to trading, read this article on the Betfair Exchange how to site.
Harman's dominance resulted in quite a dull finish, and he was the only man to trade at odds-on but the week's other event - the Barracuda Championship - provided plenty of drama.
Pre-event 28.027/1 chance, Patrick Rodgers, was matched at just 1.061/18 late on in round four but pre-event 50.049/1 shot, Akshay Bhatia, birdied the final hole to pull alongside Rodgers before going on to beat him at the first playoff hole.
There's no DP World Tour action this week but we do have the 3M Open to look forward to on the PGA Tour, which I've previewed here.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter